10 Tips for Using Body Language Effectively

By Gill Garratt

Presentation of you is approximately 55 percent nonverbal. A large part of this nonverbal communication is through your body language. Very often you are totally unaware of how your body is moving and how your expressions are changing and adapting to different situations.

A professor gave one of the students some homework that involved practicing an empathetic look in front of a mirror. This chap was completely unaware that when he was concentrating on and listening to a client, his expression looked quite fierce. He wondered why none of his clients on his training practise sessions returned for a second session.

Although it is important to be authentic in what you believe and try to convey, a little self-knowledge of how you stand, sit, move around, and present yourself can be helpful.

Here are some tips:

  • Dress to impress. You cannot help but be influenced by what the person in front of you looks like. How you look greatly influences how you are perceived and judged by others. Knowing which colours flatter you and put you in your best light adds to your impression management.

  • Make an effort to directly make eye contact.

  • Think about your mouth — try to smile and appear friendly.

  • Decide if body contact is appropriate. Only shake hands in an interview situation if the interviewer has offered you their hand first.

  • Use a warm voice. Remember that according to Mark Twain, ‘The human voice is the organ of the soul’.

  • Use good posture. Whether you’re standing or sitting, always keep your body straight.

  • Think about where to place your hands; put them in your lap, or put them on the table, if there is one.

  • Cross your legs once, preferable at your calves/ankles. This one is different between genders and may be influenced by the genders of the people with whom you are engaging.

  • Try to engage with all the others. If in an interview situation, make eye contact with the person asking the question, and always smile warmly.

  • Be aware of any habitual behaviours you may use. Ask someone to give you some feedback — for example, nose touching, hands on your chin, flicking hair back, running fingers through hair, nervous coughing, averting eye contact, and other behaviours of which you might not be aware.